Tent City

As part of a massive program of urban renewal in Boston in the 1960s, one plot of houses in the South End was demolished and replaced with a parking lot. 100 families were displaced. The parking lot became a prime location for a protest against the large-scale displacement of primarily minority tenants by commercial developments. Weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, between 100 and 400 hundred occupied the lot. They lived there in temporary shelters for three days, playing music and grilling burgers, until they were finally disbanded by renewed police pressures.

However, their initiative bore belated fruit, won with a lot more effort. The organization, CAUSE which had led the effort, received renewed attention and funding to pursue equitable housing policy. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) showed signs of new interest in affordable housing and lead-organizer Mel King was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1972. The Task Force eventually became the Tent City Corporation, which finally completed this memorable, mixed-income housing development on the site on top of a parking lot. Notably, the project continues as a mixed-income development today.

More reading: The Corporation’s records reside at U-Mass Boston, ripe for dissertations. The Internet Archive also holds a collection of primary sources from the redevelopment. Helpful context here.

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